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Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


If the forts on the East Coast are established to control or even thwart French influence, the same is not true initially for the Rova of the West Coast. There, they must above all serve to monitor the recently subjugated Sakalava regions and to preserve the security of communications between Antananarivo and the coast.
Under the reign of Radama I, these Rova are, in fact, only “modest fortified posts. The enclosure was mainly built of piles, in some regions it was made of bamboo “(Jean Aimé Rakotoarisoa, Malagasy Association of Archeology). The fortifications are constructed according to the natural means which the governor and his soldiers dispose of: large stones, wooden palisades, bamboos and thorny plants.
These fortified posts must become important later on. The strong merina of the western region have to face not only the Sakalava but also the French threat from 1841. Nosy Be is a possession of the French and is the basis for their attempts to establish The “historical rights” bequeathed by Sakalava kinglets refugees on the island. After the failures on the East Coast, particularly in front of Farafaty in 1845, the French accentuated their pressure on the Ampasindava Bay area and on Anorotsangana. As a result, Mahajanga also becomes threatened.
According to the author of the study, the Rova is encompassed within the perimeter of the Mahajanga barracks. Created in 1824 by Radama and governed initially by Ramanetaka, it is the subject of many descriptions made by many authors at different times. Mahajanga is composed of two distinct cities, the city located on the hill and the Arab shopping city. “The first fortifications are more like a fortified camp than a real Fort. “
Guillain describes it in 1845. “Situated on the summit of the Saribengo hill which rises abruptly to the height of about 120 meters behind the town of Moudzangaïe, the Fort was then only an assembly of huts made Leaves and straw, depending on the country. A single house of stones, the construction of which was entrusted to antalaot masons, stood in the midst of these mounds, it was destined for the governor. The whole occupied an area of ​​about half a mile in circumference, and was only defended by a palisade of bamboo, in which two openings were made as entrances, one looking at Moudzangaia, the other on the opposite side ; To the first were placed three pieces of large caliber, but only one of which had been mounted. Such was the position in which Ramanetaka was going to have to brave the efforts of the Sakalavians, and to defend it, he had but five or six hundred men, a part of which was already reduced by the most pitiful condition. The palisade, and to hastily raise, within it, an earthen rampart about four feet high; Besides, a piece of artillery was placed at each of the openings, the mouth protruding between the heavy suspended girders, of which the natives ordinarily formed their posts. When these arrangements were over, he waited quietly for the enemy.

Governor Ramanetaka also replaces most of the straw huts by plank houses with leaf covers. Guillain continued: “At the time I was on the scene, he could have 70 to 80 boxes in the compound. “
The town dominates all the surrounding land. It is surrounded by a low palisade in many places. On the southern side, where the entrance is situated, which faces the anchorage, the palisade is replaced in part by a wall of about three meters high, against which an embankment forming a platform is built. On the side of the hill, on the south-west side, there is also a small bastion with two embrasures, only one of which is armed. He beats the path that leads to the south gate. At this point ends the avenue which leads from the landing stage to the city.
Three other openings are made in the palisade, the first to the north, from which proceeds the road that leads to Antananarivo, the second to the northwest and the third to the east. Outside the palisade there is a sort of “glacis, about ten or twelve paces wide, planted with trees, whose ever-leafy branches form around the town like a living hedge or a curtain of verdure.”
The northwest gate opens on a path leading to a small fort located on the tip of Anorombato. The wall of this fort is five meters thick and about four meters high. One third of this height is taken by the floor. There are four cavities at the four cardinal corners inside to serve as a guardhouse and a store. In the center is the powder magazine and a kind of cistern to store water in the dry season.
“The garrison of Mahajanga is composed of three hundred men, but there are still some of them absent, engaged in commercial operations in the villages of the North and the Northeast.”